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California Legislature OKs pension changes

Smyth praises plan as he wraps up his legislative term

Posted: September 1, 2012 5:28 p.m.
Updated: September 1, 2012 5:28 p.m.

Cameron Smyth praised a public pension reform package that passed the state Legislature late Friday as a step in the right direction as he wrapped up his six years of service as Santa Clarita Valley’s state assemblyman.

“The plan that we passed today is not perfect, but it is a landmark reform that will save taxpayers billions of dollars through sweeping fundamental changes to the way we calculate pension benefits,” Smyth said in a statement dated Friday and received Saturday.

“I’ve been involved in discussions with the governor from the very beginning on this issue, and I’m glad that he was able to strike a deal before the end of our legislative session. He understands that our current system is unsustainable in the long term and has made pension reform a top priority during his first term.”

The plan approved on the last day of the legislative session changes California’s public employee pension system and is expected to save taxpayers billions of dollars.

Most Republican lawmakers say much more needs to be done to fix a system with massive liabilities.

Smyth, a Republican who earned Gov. Jerry Brown’s praise for bridging party divisions during his time in the Legislature, called it a first step toward much-needed reform.

“This is an historic deal that recognizes the important service of public employees, but also protects California taxpayers,” he said “While there is still more work to do, I’m proud that one of my last votes in the Assembly moved the ball forward on pension reform and set the stage for more comprehensive reform next year.”

Smyth was termed out of office after this session. Republican Scott Wilk and Democrat Edward Headington are running in November’s election for the redrawn district, which now takes in Simi Valley as well as the Santa Clarita Valley.

Smyth noted the reform legislation that has gone to Brown’s desk contains a proposed law he introduced earlier in the session to strip pension benefits from public employees convicted of certain felonies.

“Additionally, this will end other abuses like pension spiking, retroactive pension increases, and the purchase of service credit for time not worked,” he said.

The main pension bill, AB340, passed 49-8 in the Assembly and 38-1 in the state Senate on Friday. Brown negotiated the reforms with the Legislature’s Democratic leadership.

The legislation will increase the retirement age for new employees, cap the annual payout at $132,120, eliminate numerous abuses of the system and require workers who are not contributing half of their retirement costs to pay more.

Brown said he supports the legislation even though it falls short of the 12-point reform proposal he offered last October.

Lawmakers voted even as companion legislation was hustled up to make key fixes in the hastily written bill, which was taken up on the final day of the legislative session.

The state’s main pension fund, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, estimated the pension plan will save the system between $42 billion to $55 billion over 30 years.

Lawmakers were told by the California State Teachers’ Retirement System that the teachers’ system would save an estimated $12 billion over 30 years, although it was still conducting an analysis.




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